The Outsiders By S.E. Hinton Summary and Analysis Chapter 5

Summary

Waking up in a church with the dull realization that Johnny's killing of Bob and the flight from the law really did happen, Ponyboy daydreams about being with Darry and Soda and how wonderful life was at home. Johnny had gone for supplies and returned with food, cigarettes, soap, peroxide, a deck of playing cards, and the book Gone with the Wind. In an effort to blend in and disguise their appearances, Johnny cuts and bleaches Ponyboy's hair; Ponyboy in turn cuts Johnny's hair. Following Dally's orders, they stay inside the church and pass the time playing poker and reading aloud from Gone with the Wind. This routine continues for five days until Dally shows up and brings them back in touch with the outside world.

Dally brings news, and a letter for Ponyboy from Sodapop. Soda had discovered Pony's sweatshirt at Buck's and realized that Dally knew where Pony was hiding. Soda's letter expresses how worried both he and Darry are and how much they miss Pony.

Dally had been picked up and questioned about the murder, and had let it slip that the boys might be heading for Texas. Because of this misinformation, Dally tells Johnny and Ponyboy that it is safe to go out for a drive and get some food. They head down the mountain with Dally at the wheel doing 85 miles per hour. They stop at a Dairy Queen and both boys eat nonstop. While Johnny and Ponyboy inhale many rounds of food, Dally gives them a quick rundown of the events back home. Because of the killing, the Socs and the greasers are engaged in all-out warfare, and a major rumble is planned. The greasers have a secret weapon; they have a spy working for them: Cherry Valance.

Analysis

The cutting of Ponyboy's and Johnny's hair is a very symbolic gesture. On the surface, their new short haircuts offer them a disguise, but the haircuts also exemplify the fact that they are cutting their ties with the past. They are no longer greasers; unfortunately, they are now fugitives. By losing their hair, the outward trademark of their identity, they change perspectives — not only from their own point of view, but the perspectives of others around them. Dally is the first to see the transformation: "He looks different with his hair like that."

Pony's hair was his pride and joy; now, not only does he lose it, but he also changes its color. His hair color changes from a reddish hue — a warm, comfortable color — to white. White contains all the colors of the spectrum and is a crossover color that cannot be affiliated with anyone. As in earlier chapters, the color white brands him as an outsider — this time to his own identity as a greaser.

Cutting their hair forces the boys to deal with the trauma of their situation. After crying and venting their emotions, they settle into life in hiding at the church. To help pass the time, they read Gone with the Wind. The Civil War novel begins to take on special significance in this story. Johnny, especially, likes the book, and Pony is amazed that Johnny can get more meaning out of the story than he can. Johnny didn't do well in school: " — he couldn't grasp anything that was shoved at him too fast, and I guess his teachers thought he was just plain dumb. But he wasn't. He was just a little slow to get things, and he liked to explore things once he did get them."

Johnny's love for the book — and his ability to get more meaning out of this novel than Pony does — defies society's assumptions about Johnny and greasers in general, especially with regard to what they can accomplish and enjoy. The class distinction between the greasers and the Socs becomes blurred, indicating that being an outsider is a matter of perspective (a recurring theme in the book).

Johnny is especially impressed with the Southern gentlemen. Johnny relates to these men because they are gallant and cool even when everything is against them, just like the greasers are.

The South had attempted to secede from the union, and at the time of the Gone with the Wind story, they were losing the Civil War. They were the "outsiders" and in the novel they are gallant even in the face of defeat.

Johnny says "I bet they were cool guys" when he learns that the Southern gentlemen rode into sure death because they were gallant. He says of them "They remind me of Dally." And he tells Ponyboy a story about Dally getting picked up by the police (for a crime that Two-Bit actually committed) and staying cool and calm throughout the ordeal, just like the Southern gentlemen. Ponyboy begins to understand Johnny's hero worship of Dally. Ponyboy likes his escapes from life — his books, clouds, and sunsets — but Dally isn't like the heroes in Pony's books; Johnny worships him because he is frighteningly real.

The colors of the countryside continue to comfort the boys. Ponyboy's appreciation of these colors — "I loved to look at the colors of the fields and the soft shadings of the horizon" — helps temper his view of the world. Ponyboy better understands that he lives not in a black and white world, a world that is either greaser or Soc exclusively, but in a world with many layers in between these two extremes. The colors of the countryside help Pony with this realization. In the city, he was on the same path to understanding, drawn to the beauty of sunsets. Speaking to Ponyboy, Johnny admits, "I never noticed colors and clouds and stuff until you kept reminding me about them."

Ponyboy recites a poem that he has memorized, Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost. The fact that he has committed this poem to memory is another clue to his character's depth. This poem symbolizes the death of his parents, the goodness of life with them, and the inevitability that all of life will change.

Reciting this poem to Johnny allows Pony to admit that there is still more to understand about not only himself but the world. The colors in the world around him help him see the contrasts present in the world — although sometimes overlooking them is easier. Ponyboy explains, "I liked my books and clouds and sunsets. Dally was so real he scared me." Dally is as real as any sunset, but he is frightening and, therefore, safer for Ponyboy to overlook.

The poem Nothing Gold Can Stay creates another bond between Johnny and Ponyboy. Pony confides to Johnny that he couldn't have recited that poem to any of the other gang members, except maybe his brother, Soda. Johnny understands and offers the conclusion that maybe the two of them are just different from the others; Pony disagrees and says that, no, maybe the rest of the gang are the ones who are different.

Ponyboy's family life with Darry and Sodapop, a life that had seemed so unfair to him, seems more perfect now that he is a fugitive and an outsider to the family. He sincerely misses his brothers. Note that his first questions to Dally when Dally arrives are not about his and Johnny's plight but about Soda.

Hinton uses the reflective narration technique to lead the reader in many different directions. She encourages readers to be sympathetic toward the boys because of the conditions in which they are living, but makes clear that Johnny did kill a young man.

In this chapter, Johnny reminds Ponyboy of this fact and the implications of Bob's death. Even though Ponyboy does not want to recognize the consequences of this act, Hinton uses this technique to remind readers to do just that: "Then for the first time since Dally and I had sat down behind those girls at the Nightly Double, I relaxed. We could take whatever was coming now."

And, just when the reader believes that the foreshadowing in previous chapters has led to the worst the characters must endure, Hinton slips in another piece of foreshadowing in the line, ". . . if that old church ever caught fire there'd be no stopping it." Combine this statement with her tease at the end of the chapter — the discovery that Cherry is a spy for the greasers — and the reader is efficiently lured into turning the next page.

Glossary

peroxide hydrogen peroxide, a liquid used to bleach hair.

gallant 1 showy and lively in dress or manner 2 stately; imposing 3 brave and noble; high-spirited and daring.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) U.S. poet.

T-bird [Slang] a Ford Thunderbird.

elude to avoid or escape from by quickness, cunning, and so on; evade.

heater [Slang] a pistol.

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A sub-theme in this novel is the power of three. Which of the following is not represented in The Outsiders?




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